1st ethanol-from-corn-waste plant now hiring in northern Iowa


Minnesota corn farmers may soon be sending an ethanol plant the by-products of their crop -- while the grain goes elsewhere for food or livestock feed.

MPR reports a first-of-its-kind ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa, has begun hiring and plans to open early next year. Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels plans to make ethanol from corn waste -- cobs, husks, and leaves -- but not the kernels. A company official tells MPR construction is underway in Emmetsburg, managers are being hired, and a number of Minnesota farmers are expected to send material to the plant.

NBC reported early this month on the race in the alternative fuel industry to begin making cellulosic ethanol on a commercial scale. One renewable energy researcher told the network companies are anxious to make a biofuel that does not compete with the demand for food and feed.

Bloomberg reported earlier this year that making ethanol from crop waste costs about 40 percent more than making it from corn. But surveys of companies in the industry suggest the cost difference will disappear in about three years, according to Bloomberg. One analyst expects cellulosic ethanol will begin to make "meaningful inroads into the vehicle fuel market" late in this decade.

Poet-DSM calls its joint venture in Emmetsburg "Project Liberty." MPR notes that a competitor expects to open a cellulosic plant in Kansas at about the same time.

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High price of corn idles Little Falls ethanol plant

The Central Minnesota Ethanol Co-Op has suspended operations until they can buy corn or sell ethanol at a better price, the St. Cloud Times reports. The Little Falls plant is using the downtime to complete maintenance and other projects, but most of the 30 employees are out of work.

As corn gets scarce and expensive, more ethanol plants shutting down

There's no word on when an idled ethanol plant in Little Falls might reopen. But plant closings are becoming more common in an industry squeezed by drought-inflated corn prices. At least seven ethanol plants in the Midwest have closed and many others are operating at reduced capacity.